A Wizard of Earthsea: The Earthsea Cycle, Book 1 Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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"The shapeless mass of darkness split apart. It sundered, and a pale spindle of light gleamed between his open arms. In the oval of light there moved a human shape: a tall woman...beautiful, and sorrowful, and full of fear." - from A Wizard of Earthsea, first in a tetralogy that includes The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore, introduces the listener to Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, known also as Sparrowhawk. When Sparrowhawk casts a spell that saves his village from destruction at the hands of the invading Kargs, Ogion, the Mage of Re Albi, encourages the boy to apprentice himself in the art of wizardry. So, at the age of 13, the boy receives his true name - Ged - and gives himself over to the gentle tutelage of the Master Ogion. But impatient with the slowness of his studies and infatuated with glory, Ged embarks for the Island of Roke, where the highest arts of wizardry are taught. There, Ged's natural talents enable him to surpass his classmates in little time. But when his vanity prompts him to summon Elfarran, the fair lady of the Deed of Enlad, he unleashes a shapeless mass of darkness - the shadow.
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|Listening Length||7 hours and 17 minutes|
|Author||Ursula K. Le Guin|
|Audible.com Release Date||April 10, 2009|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #1,729 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#3 in Literature & Fiction Classics for Teens
#43 in Teen & Young Adult Classic Literature
#43 in Fantasy for Teens
Top reviews from the United States
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Instead of giving in to the readers’ magical fantasies by having her hero use fantastic powers in battle for the purposes of shock and awe, she moves the opposite direction. We see little magic from Ged throughout the book even though one powerful wizard has foreseen that Ged will become the most powerful among them. Unlike Harry Potter where magic is used at every turn for the delight of the reader, Le Guin shows magic sparingly even though her world is full of it. For me that is a refreshing twist.
Ironically Ged, when he learns he has a propensity for magic, dreams like any of us would of all the things he will do with his magic when he learns how to use it. The day comes when a wizard takes him on as an apprentice. Ogion subtly showed great power by easily bringing Ged back from a near-death state that had been brought on by Ged’s overextending what little power he then had to save his village from attackers.
Ged is soon disappointed by this Ogion’s hesitancy to use magic. He won’t even use it to stop the rain so that they can sleep dry while traveling through the forest.
But Ogion let the rain fall where it would. He found a thick fir-tree and lay
down beneath it. Ged crouched among the dripping bushes wet and sullen,
and wondered what was the good of having power if you were too wise to use
it, and wished he had gone as prentice to that old weatherworker of the Vale,
where at least he would have slept dry.
I was impressed by Le Guin’s responsible approach toward magic. I was happy at how she carried out this restraint throughout the book, successfully using the restraint to keep my attention and not boring me.
Ged is unhappy with his tutelage by Ogion as it seems nothing more than learning how to live with nature. He doesn’t understand, or perhaps he just doesn’t have enough patience, to accept that this oneness with nature is the source of Ogion’s great power. Even after seeing a terrifying display of Ogion’s power, once more to save Ged’s life:
The door was flung wide. A man entered with a white light flaming about him, a
great bright figure who spoke aloud, fiercely and suddenly. The darkness and the whispering ceased and were dispelled.
Ged jumps at the chance to leave his apprenticeship under Ogion and go to the great wizarding school on the island of Roke.
But even on Roke, where Ged excels in his studies, the wizards, masters of magic, teach restraint in using it. I found I bought in wholeheartedly to Le Guin’s magical philosophy taught through these wizards.
To change this rock into a jewel, you must change its true name. And to do that, my son,
even to so small a scrap of the world, is to change the world . . . To light a candle is to cast a shadow.
Yes! A world of magic that has teeth. Using magic in this world has consequences.
Ged progresses in magic faster than he is emotionally mature and this, of course, leads to the conflict. Through pride and carelessness he calls something into the world that has no name and thus cannot be controlled by any wizard, let alone the young Ged. The rest of the book is about Ged surviving while learning how to face this dark power he has unleashed.
Ged, a young wizard who gets little respect and who is struggling for his life still lives as a hero. While confronting a dragon, and very possibly death, Ged is given a great temptation. The dragon, in a bid to save itself has a proposition:
“Yet I could help you. You will need help soon, against that which hunts you in the dark.”
Ged stood dumb.
“What is it that hunts you? Name it to me. . . . If you could name it you could master it, maybe, little wizard.
Maybe I could tell you its name, when I see it close by. And it will come close, if you wait about my isle.”
If Ged makes the deal he may save himself, but at the cost of the village who has hired him to save them.
Le Guin’s book reads like most novels you’ve read, but in tone it feels like a story being told around a campfire.
"So bolstering up his pride, he set all his strong will n the work they gave him, the lessons and crafts and histories and skills taught by the grey-cloaked masters of Roke, who were called the Nine."
The world she creates has great detail while at the same time displaying a sparseness that a story of the oral tradition might have. This bothered me a little, falling short of the Tolkien complexity of details, and yet intrigued me as a legitimate, polished style she consciously chose.
If you are a serious fan of fantasy, but haven’t read A Wizard of Earthsea, you ought to. You may not like Le Guin’s style as opposed to how writers are writing today, but it is serious book, very readable, that will give good contrast to the other books of magic you may come across and make your reading experiences more pleasurable. Jacob and Lace
And yet it's a very enjoyable read. The slightly stilted language creates an air of dignity, the speed of the story is taking the reader for a breathless ride which makes it hard to put the book down, the scenes are vivid without needing long descriptions.
I was reminded of Le Guin recently when I was reading an article about influential women writers and her name was on the list of ten presented by the author. It seemed like a kick in the pants that I needed to stick one of her books into my reading queue and finally make her acquaintance. I decided to start with the Earthsea Cycle, her series of fantasy adventures. A Wizard of Earthsea was the first in the series.
Earthsea is Le Guin's equivalent of Middle Earth or the Seven Kingdoms - a fantastical world where sorcerers, wizards, witches, and dragons hold sway. A Wizard of Earthsea introduces us to young Sparrowhawk, a child who early on shows that he possesses the powers of a wizard. He is sent to apprentice with a master called Ogion, and his true name, Ged, is revealed. But at a certain point, the impatient Ged comes to feel that Ogion is holding him back. He's teaching him foundational stuff but what the youth wants is to learn "real magic."
Ogion offers Ged the opportunity to go to a place called Roke where there is something like an academy of wizardry that has an advanced course of learning. There, Ged makes a friend, Vetch, but he also makes an enemy, Jasper. He and Jasper are consumed by jealousy of each other and they engage in schoolboy dares, each trying to best his opponent.
In response to one of Jasper's dares, Ged summons the spirit of a long dead woman, but when the spirit comes, there also comes a shadow that is loosed on the world. That shadow becomes Ged's nemesis. It hunts him to annihilate him. The rest of the story tells of Ged's quest to master the shadow and destroy it before it destroys him. As he becomes the hunter rather than the hunted, he is joined by his friend, Vetch.
Ged is a flawed character, a stereotypical cocky adolescent who thinks he knows it all. Even though he is a wizard of formidable talent, he screws up time and again and must spend much of his time trying to rectify his mistakes. He seems, in other words, altogether human.
The story reminds the reader of many others that concern the hero's journey. Most obviously, perhaps, is The Lord of the Rings with the perilous journey of Frodo and Sam. But it also has clear connections to the Arthurian legends and the struggles of the Knights of the Round Table against evil in the world. This is a much slimmer volume than those tales and much of it is taken up with exposition of Ged's childhood and adolescence, background material for the rest of the series.
It's interesting that there are no armies, no wars here and not much bloodshed - unless you count the blood of the six dragons that Ged kills. In an afterword to the Kindle edition which I read, the author makes the point that this was deliberate. She set out to write a fantasy featuring the struggle between good and evil that was not drenched in blood. In her telling of that struggle, the key turns out to be to know yourself and to remain true to that self. Another important key is to know the true name of the evil you are wrestling. To know a thing's true name is to know its nature and to be able to gain power over it.
Also, in the afterword, Le Guin makes a point that her heroes in the story are people of color, a refreshing change from most contemporary fantasies or sci-fi of the time this book was published in which the heroes are almost always white guys. Even though she didn't make a big point of the characters' color in telling the story, this was her subtle bit of subversion back in 1968.
Top reviews from other countries
I first read this when I was 11 or 12 years old, I’ve just now re-read it, and, nostalgia aside, it is an amazing work. I was struck now by the quality of the writing, beautifully formed sentences, built from unusual and evocative words. And in this book, words have real power, naming a creature or object is what gives magical power over it.
So if you enjoy fantasy, magic & self-discovery, this is a must read to discover the author who inspired so many after her.
The world in A Wizard of Earthsea feels full, magical, and I wasn’t left feeling like nothing much happened as there is so much travelling involved.
The Plot is Simple:
The hero of The Wizard of Earthsea, Ged, trains as a magician and goes into the world to face a dark force. Nothing too complicated – a nice, easy read.
After reading The Wizard of Earthsea, I saw where authors like J. K. Rowling and Patrick Rothfuss got their wizard-school inspiration. Kvothe in The Name of the Wind is surprisingly similar to Ged in this fantasy book.
The only reason this book is not 5 stars is because of the ending. I felt like it was a little rushed – Ursula K. Le Guin could have wrapped it up over a longer time.
That being said, I’m looking forward to reading the next book, The Tombs of Atuan soon!
A large part of the book features the boy Ged searching for a mysterious entity that he has unwhittingly unleashed upon the world.
For a while I thought he might have been looking for a consistent point of view because it certainly wandered all over the place, roaming between multiple characters and the omnipresent voice often within the same scene. In a modern novel this would be frowned upon but I guess in 1968, authors were playing with a very different rule book.
Luckily this author handled the odd style well and enriched the story with many beautiful details about the characters and settings. Some of the description added real depth to the story. I enjoyed this story quite a bit.
Open till halfway through the book actually hated the main character; proud and arrogant. But then halfway through the book something happened which changes and leads him on a quest to the rest of the novel. This book is like a meditation.
This is a story of a young boy who finds out he is a powerful wizard, who goes to a magical School goes on the quest to confront an enemy that is hunting him but has to die in order to defeat that enemy. This is not the story of Harry potter but the story of sparrow hawk. Was published in 1968. Although TH White introduce the idea of a wizard School, it's actually the author of this book that develops into a proper concrete idea. This is the progenitor of wizard school novels.
Although this book reads like an anthology there is a definite through line of learning of history one of the greatest wizards of earthsea.
Best fantasy book I have ever read.